Peru’s $4.5 billion lawsuit against Repsol over oil spill to go to court

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A fisherman hands over an oil-stained seabird to Giancarlo Inga Diaz, a veterinarian with the National Service of Natural Protected Areas (SERNANP), after Spain’s Repsol spilled more than 10,000 barrels of crude oil into the Pacific Ocean, near Isla Pescadores, Peru February 9, 2022. REUTERS/Sebastian Castaneda/File Photo

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LIMA, Aug 23 (Reuters) – A Peruvian judge on Tuesday recognized a $4.5 billion lawsuit against Spanish oil company Repsol SA (REP.MC), eight months after an undersea oil pipeline owned by the company caused a spill of more than 10,000 barrels into the Pacific Ocean.

The civil lawsuit seeking $3 billion for environmental damages and $1.5 billion for damages to residents and consumers was filed by Peru’s consumer protection agency Indecopi.

Repsol said the lawsuit was baseless, the sum demanded was arbitrary and the spill was not its fault.

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The procedure, however, adds to Repsol’s legal problems. The company is also the subject of a criminal investigation into the spill and prosecutors have banned four top executives from leaving the country for 18 months.

Peru called the incident the country’s worst environmental disaster in recent memory.

Repsol said in May that cleaning up the spill would cost it $150 million.

Indecopi alleged that environmental damage continued to affect beaches and fishermen.

“We are seeking compensation for the affected population (…) who live less than 150 kilometers from the contaminated coast,” said Julian Palacin, the boss of Indecopi, in a press release.

The spill took place in January at the Repsol refinery in La Pampilla, located an hour north of the capital Lima. Repsol initially blamed the incident on freak waves triggered by an underwater volcanic eruption near the island of Tonga, but has since blamed an oil tanker.

Others named in the lawsuit include insurer Mapfre Global Risks and Italian company Fratelli D’Amico Armatori SPA, which owns the tanker from which the oil spilled.

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Reporting by Marco Aquino and Marcelo Rochabrun; Editing by Jamie Freed

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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